Two movies really, with full credits for each part. Not much here to gaze upon, and my copy looked like streaming mush; it’s all narrative. Chapters give different characters and perspectives (I like how their titles are tied together with song lyrics) as the missing Laura is tracked by her more arrogant boyfriend Rafael and her secret boyfriend Ezequiel (Ez’s job in the movie is to not follow what people are saying so everything has to be repeated). Ez had been helping Laura with her private project, following a love story through letters hidden in books donated to the library, but he doesn’t know about her second mystery, getting involved with scientist Elisa Carricajo who’s hiding a lake beast at her house. The music at the end of part one gets sci-fi in anticipation of this section. At the end of part two the picture goes widescreen as Laura disappears – having followed two great mysteries, she becomes one herself. Cast and crew are all returning from La Flor, and I hope they keep making these wheel-spinning mixed-genre movies.

A sort-of decade-later follow-up to the director and star’s Ostende. Citarella in Cinema Scope:

By trying to make a film in similar terms to Ostende, something else happened: a mutant film appeared, a plural idea of cinema. I like that Trenque Lauquen can’t be classified, that you can’t say the film is going this way or that way, or even that the film is this or that. It’s always trying to outrun this idea of being classified – it’s like the experience of reading a novel that takes a rhizomatic approach to storytelling, where each chapter proposes something new and mysterious. For me, the difference between the two films is that in Ostende, Laura is someone who wants to have a lot of lives – to live in fiction – but ultimately decides to go back to her normal life with her boyfriend. In Trenque Lauquen, Laura lives all those possibilities, and finally gets lost.


Trenque Lauquen (2023, Laura Citarella & Mariano Llinás)

During the Trenque Lauquen city premiere of the Trenque Lauquen double-feature, Citarella sits alone at a cafe across from the theater, the sounds of the film overlaying the town, noting walkouts (one) and people arriving to watch Barbie. Good to see Ezequiel in the crowd, I dunno why Paredes and Carricajo are backstage wearing fake mustaches. This was part of a Film Fest Gent online shorts collection pairing directors with composers, so I suppose the music in here by Eiko Ishibashi (Drive My Car, Drag City) isn’t from the feature film.

RIP Michael Snow. I’ve seen his Wavelength on film and disrespected it, watched a horrendous home video copy of La Region Centrale and loved it… had fun with Presents and *Corpus Callosum, Sshtoorrty and Cityscape. It’s not so easy for a mid-country dweller like myself to watch his works, but I assume I’ll be watching them (or trying to) for a long time. One thing I can access is his book… which reads very much like a movie, a split-screen tracking shot. It has fade-ups, for god’s sake. It’s not all continuous motion – there are scene changes using page-turn effects (pages held and rephotographed mid-turn, then printed on new pages). The book contains itself, like a movie about its own making.

Reprint publisher Primary Information:

Never bound by discipline, Snow has remarked that his sculptures were made by a musician, his films by a painter. Flipping through Cover to Cover, which is composed entirely of photographs in narrative sequence, one might describe it as a book made by a filmmaker. Snow himself has called the piece “a quasi-movie.” … an elegant, disorienting study in simultaneity that allows the viewer to enter the work from either end.

Martha Langford has a good write-up, and a whole free PDF book on Snow

Chris Fite-Wassilak in ArtReview on the book’s cinematic precedent, which I’ll probably never see:

Snow … made Cover to Cover as a book artwork in 1975, shortly after his film Two Sides to Every Story (1974), the product of two cameramen filming each other from opposite sides of a room, was completed. In the resulting two-part projection (each part projected onto opposite sides of the same aluminium sheet) we can choose to watch, from either of the camera’s perspectives, a woman walk between them and, at one point, spraypaint a green circle onto a piece of clear Perspex. The technique gives a materiality to the projected image, as if trapping it within the plates of a microscope slide ready for examination … Reading Cover to Cover is much like watching one of Snow’s films: visually quite mundane, where what happens isn’t as important as how it’s being shown to you, with a sustained focus that sits with a relatively simple idea for longer than you might think.

Among everything else, Snow was a jazz guy – a music enthusiast, pianist, recording artist. We see his hi-fi setup in Cover to Cover. I spent the day listening to his works available on UbuWeb

“Short Wavelength” from 2 Radio Solos is a 1980 live DJ performance, Snow on the shortwave radio dial, tuning between different stations and statics. Snow claims no other sound manipulation, but he’s been known to lie on his album descriptions, and many of the sounds here have clearly been sped up (like reeeeal clearly). It tried my patience, then I stopped listening closely and got tied up in work, then it ended and I thought “hunh, it’s already over?”

“Conference: Subject: 3 Inches = 77 Milimeters = 3 Min. 30 Sec.” from Hearing Aid (2002) is three guys making mouth noises, commenting that three inches makes a difference, with synth coming in at the end, an avant-stand-up comedy-garde performance. This chaos continues in the “Interview” track that follows, interviewer Doina Popescu asking straight questions in German and getting pained groaning sounds in response. The 20-minute “Discussion” track might even be a proper discussion – postponing listening to the rest of that.

“Left Right” from Music For Piano, Whistling, Microphone and Tape Recorder (1975) sounds simply lo-fi at first, but what has he done with the microphone to make the piano sound like this? Excellent minimalist music to work to, then it gets hyper towards the end. Alan Licht calls it “pretty brutal”:

Snow alternating notes and chords in the bass and treble registers in a very repetitive stride piano pattern. The sound is intentionally distorted and a metronome and telephone are heard … many of Snow’s films are concerned with lateral movement (especially BACK AND FORTH and PRESENTS), which makes the title (and the use of a metronome–get it?) a pun on his own art.

“Falling Starts” also from the 1975 album… Licht again: “a tape of a piano melody first played back at hyperspeed, then slower and slower until it becomes recognisable before transforming into a thunderous, quivering bass boom.” This sounded like it would be good work music, and sure enough. I played the first half.

Sinoms (1989) – One voice at a time reads a list of Quebec mayors, like teachers taking roll. Ten minutes in, it starts getting playful, combining different voices speaking the same mayor name at once, then layering in different stereo patterns. The voices are English or French native speakers with some pronunciation hurdles. After a while in headphones it gives the pleasant feeling of working in a busy cafe surrounded by conversation, but without the distraction of following people’s conversations or phone calls. Ends abruptly.

Discogs says there’s a three-CD collection of piano works out there. Allmusic’s discography is incomplete and mixes him up with another Michael Snow, but bringing things back (and forth), they use a page from Cover to Cover as the artist photo.

Publisher Guillaume Canet (writer/director of Tell No One) is married to TV actress Juliette Binoche, but we know she’s having an affair with writer Vincent Macaigne (The Innocents) because when her husband says the writer’s new book is about his affairs she perks up and asks if they’re recent affairs, and we know Guillaume is having an affair with his digital media director Christa Théret (a recent Man Who Laughs remake) because he’s gung ho about his company going fully digital even though this seems at odds with everything else he values. There’s a minor subplot about the publishing company being sold, which turns out a false rumor, or a power play by Guillaume’s boss.

“The blogosphere is heated”
“Tweets are modern day haiku”
“Now we have algorithms”

Assayas has made at least two incisive movies focusing on then-current technologies with Demonlover and Personal Shopper, and he’s covered inter-generational difference and relevance beautifully in Summer Hours and Clouds of Sils Maria, so it’s strange that this one feels so dated and inconsequential. IMDB says he began writing it in the mid-2000’s, so maybe that’s part of it. At the end they’re trying to get the “real” Juliette Binoche to voice their audiobook, then the writer’s girl announces she’s pregnant and Jonathan Richman’s “Here Come the Martian Martians” plays, and suddenly I’m wondering if the movie was meant to be a comedy.

Tarr Bela, I Used To Be a Filmmaker (2013, Jean-Marc Lamoure)

A making-of-The Turin Horse. Crazy the amount of work, the lighting and helicopters and camera rehearsals and actor-torturing that went into this. Tarr’s movies tend to look primitive and masterfully complicated at once (see: opening shot of the horse and cart) and it seems like a behind-the-scenes documentary could demystify it to death, but I’d already seen set-building stills and couldn’t help myself from wanting to know more. Even when they show the scene construction then immediately play the scene, it’s still just as powerful.

Also watched part of The Turin Horse again with Jonathan Rosenbaum’s audio commentary. Can’t recall if this is a direct quote or not, but he calls it possibly the only Bela Tarr film that’s not a comedy. Writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai has a terrific paragraph on their collaboration quoted in the commentary about 42 minutes in, which I played back a bunch of times, also written here. “Making films isn’t a matter of fairness.”


Damnation (2013, Janice Lee)

“This is no weather for men to live in.”

Been looking forward to this book for a long time, but it turns out it wasn’t for me. Maybe the endless anticipation and delay didn’t help – after all, I read Susan Howe’s Chris Marker book the same day I first heard about it, and the surprise of its existence added to the enjoyment, but this one had already gone from pleasure to chore by the time I began. The ebook was sent to me by the publisher before it came out (thank you! apologies for this “review” and the two-year delay). I prepped by watching the Bela Tarr film, then discovered that I hate reading books on my laptop, so kept pushing it aside after trying to start a few times.

Opens as a biblical PontypoolFlame Alphabet apocalypse, and heads into variations on Tarr/Krasznahorkai worlds: guys compared to dogs, sleeping with neighbors’ wives, watching the endless rain. Ruined towns, howling wind, blank pages like the blackouts between scenes. Some more specific characters, like a drunken Satantango doctor, a disturbed girl in the barn with a scared cat, a lingering accordion player. Speaking of Pontypool (the book, not the movie), there are too many points of view, and much language repetition that felt like it was building a poetic flow which I couldn’t follow at all.


Hotel Magnezit (1978, Bela Tarr)

Belligerent Uncle Tibi is getting kicked out of hostel, has money problems with his roommates. This was Béla Tarr’s graduation film, and is my first exposure to his earlier verite-style.

From the uncredited film description: “First he offends and attacks all of his roommates, then he starts to cry and tells them that he was a pilot in WWII and he’s left his soul there. An interesting portrait of human reactions and changing emotions.”

Kind of a traumatic movie. You never know if one of the two characters is going to hurt or kill themselves or the other, and/or if there’s a real monster/spirit after them. A little ways in you definitely decide it’s the one thing, but later it’s definitely the other. They’re an odd couple from the start, the kid spending his time building weapons, his mom yelling in anger when her son hugs her. Monsters and ghosts mix with real problems (kid is hungry, mom wants to sleep all the time, protective services pay a visit). She watches Melies shorts on TV.

Ash slept against my neck for the whole movie.

As soon as Castro took over after the communist revolution, Marker went to document the experience, producing a jubilant propaganda film in the style of his recent travel essay films. Not sure if he met and interviewed Castro directly, or is using stock footage – my trusty Catherine Lupton book would tell me, if I had it here.

“Castro has betrayed the revolution,” said the U.S. State Dept. And we know how the State Dept. jealously protects the purity of the revolution. We hesitate to believe this is the main concern of the USA’s avatars of democracy in Cuba. There must be something else.

The same week, I read Susan Howe’s book Sorting Facts, or Nineteen Ways of Looking at Chris Marker, an unusually well-informed (mentions of Tarkovsky and Cuba) poetic examination of Marker’s works.

Picked this up at Strand, opened to a random page in The Player chapter and decided I need it – then thought I’d better watch Withnail & I before reading. Hilarious, fun book about Richard’s travails acting in Withnail & I, Warlock, Henry and June, LA Stories, Hudson Hawk, The Player, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Age of Innocence and Ready to Wear, with paperback-edition epilogue bits on Portrait of a Lady, Twelfth Night, The Serpent’s Kiss and Spice World. A couple mentions of How to Get Ahead in Advertising (having already sketched out the process of working with Bruce Robinson in the Withnail chapter, he probably wanted to get on to the Hollywood stuff), a few sentences on Mountains of the Moon (its producer is insanely wealthy) and no mention at all of Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Since I never read gossipy behind-the-scenes Hollywood tales it was full of surprises for me – but Grant’s writing and humor is always the main attraction.

Lately Grant has written/directed a movie called Wah-Wah and written a diary about that – something to look forward to. Oooh and looks like there’s a novel called “By Design,” which a reviewer says is “an attempt to fictionalize all those great Hollywood experiences & stories that for legal reasons he couldn’t include” in the diaries.

I first heard about this book (and Canyon, probably) at this screening at the Nashville Film Festival presented by Dominic Angerame, executive director of Canyon.

Had been meaning to buy it ever since. Coincidentally, the day after I placed my order, Dominic posted a letter declaring that Canyon “can no longer continue as it was originally conceived and changes need to be made that are appropriate to our present day and age.” I wish that such changes included more screenings like the one at NaFF (perhaps in two years, for Canyon’s 50th anniversary) since the book didn’t captivate me the way the films do. I guess infighting between partners and artists at an indie film distributor isn’t so exciting to me.

Divided into sections representing phases of the company’s history: Formation, Incorporation, Revitalization, Intellectualization, Maintenance

Little discussion about films themselves, but much about who gets paid what percentages, festival screenings and censorship, the difficulty of raising funds and the disparity between the famous members (Bruce Conner, Stan Brakhage) whose films rent out more than half the other members combined. Mostly interesting were the reprintings of original Canyon newsletter articles.

Some favorite pieces:
Saul Landau’s account of a 1964 police seizure of Jean Genet’s Un Chant d’Amour
Robert Nelson’s 1968 summary of the Brussels festival films, followed by miscellaneous notes, then another summary of the Bellevue festival.
Robert Pike’s story about a three-minute film called God Is Dog Spelled Backwards
Brakhage’s story of the making of The Text of Light
James Broughton’s “How to Cope with the Question Period”
A couple of Kuchar cartoons
Larry Jordan’s “Survival in the … Film Market of 1979”
Warren Sonbert on film syntax

“Both books were non-fiction, Malcolm insisted… claims they were confessions.”

I like a movie that reminds me of In the Mouth of Madness. I also like 80’s children’s horror flick The Gate and its sequel, and this was made by the same team (though we have evidence that the director has since fallen straight off the quality charts). And it’s from the writer of Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (one of the good ones). So I should have loved this – and I did, even if I can see why it’s not enjoying the same reputation as Lost Boys and The Monster Squad these days.

Jenny Wright (the top-billed woman in Young Guns 2, which is to say she’s eighteenth-billed overall) plays scatterbrained bookseller Virginia, who is recently obsessed with obscure horror writer Malcolm Brand. She reads his first book, which features a murderous troll creature locked in a crate, losing herself in the book as creatively shown by the film – the transitions between real and fantasy are well done. I was more surprised that she seems to have a happy, comfortable relationship with her cop boyfriend Richard (Clayton Rohner of The Relic, April Fool’s Day), unusual for a movie.

Caught them both staring into space:

Things heat up when she finds the author’s second book, and the murders within spring to life as she reads. Randall Cook, an effects animator who worked on The Gate, The Thing, Ghostbusters, Puppet Masters 2 and 4 and other movies I used to watch on cable all the time, and therefore a major influence on my childhood dreams and the continued existence of SHOCKtober, plays the mad doctor/book author wearing a beret, a cape, some serious facial disfigurement makeup, and a mask that would please Leatherface during the last 15 minutes.

Virginia has some friends, who are, naturally, doomed to sacrified before Randy’s desire for reconstructive surgery – more Eyes Without a Face than Texas Chainsaw Massacre. An actress in her theater group loses her scalp and pretty long hair (I hadn’t thought of Randy’s baldness as a gruesome disfigurement), her friend Lenny loses his nice Italian nose, her patient bookshop coworker Mona loses her lips (a killer’s gotta have luscious lips) and I’m not sure what he wants from the pianist across the street from her apartment. Virginia skips ahead in the book to see who the next victims will be, but the cops dismiss her as a crank. When the predictable showdown between herself (with a late-arriving Richard) and Randy arrives, she unleashes the beastie from the first book (which looks suspiciously like The Gate goblins on a larger scale) for a few great minutes of stop-motion which justify everything that has come before. Brand finally turns into book pages and flutters away. Mick Garris totally ripped this off for his TV episode Valerie on the Stairs, figuring that nobody would notice – gotcha, Mick.

See also: Shadowplay